One side benefit of photography is a deeper connection with the world that comes through the study of subject. Most photographers have at least one subject they return to again and again. A place, person or thing that holds a significant meaning. Mine is a small outcrop of headland on the Bellarine Peninsula, about an hour from Melbourne called Point Lonsdale. This was one of the first places where, with a few rolls of Ilford 100 in my pocket, I fumbled with an old Nikon and a borrowed tripod that weighed as much as a sledge hammerand pinched my fingers every time I tried to adjust it. Where I created my first overexposed, poorly composed, out of focus images of seascapes and the surrounding coastline. I’d like to say they were impressionist, but really they were just bad photos. Really bad photos. Where there any image that was half decent (by which I mean in focus) I would hurry to the darkroom, enlarging it to poster size and hanging it on my wall for the world to see. It was crap, but I was proud of this crap.
I returned time and time again to this place, partly because it was convenient, but also partly because it began to hold some meaning. Sometimes I’d walk around for hours before even thinking of taking out my camera, sometimes I wouldn’t even bring it. This beach became a place to reflect.
As I practiced and slowly improved, I felt I was able to do some sort justice to the place. I began to understand how to capture the tranquillity of low tide when the rock pools were exposed and clouds were reflected in them, the best angles for each time of day to shoot the lighthouse that stands proudly above the cliff tops, and the long jetty that protrudes from the beach and is used by fisherman all year round.
I’ve kept coming back for 15 years. It is only a small area, but I somehow always manage to find something new that I’d never before noticed. It has taught me, not only about the technical aspects of photography, but also about seeing, about being observant and slowing down. I’ve learned to appreciate what is around me. This is a place I will always return to. I feel I owe it a debt for the gift it has given me. Who knows, maybe someday I’ll be able to honour it in photographs.
This photo took me two years to make. Let me explain.
“Is it left or right”
“Um, not sure,” said Amy.
“What do you mean, not sure?”
“Well, the map says go left, but the sign says go right.”
“The map isn’t that clear. Lets follow the sign.”
This, as it turned out, was the wrong option.
We were in search of Wreck Beach, a stretch of coastline at Moonlight Head along the Great Ocean Road, infamous for being the final resting place of the Marie Gabrielle (1870) and Fiji (1890), two cargo ships bringing tea from China and supplies from Germany, and most of their crews. It is one of the Great Ocean Road’s most sought locations, yet one of the most difficult to find.
As we drove along in the late afternoon, the road became narrower and sandier and littered with deep potholes. By the time we realised our mistake there was no room to turn around so we had to keep going to find somewhere we could manoeuvre the car into what became a somewhat awkward, bumper scratching 9 point exercise in patience. This done, and despite the now fading light and increasing chill, I noticed that we were on a ridge above rolling green hills and a beautiful vista and the dusk had started to pick up a pale pink colour. I decided to set up my camera.
“Um, don’t you think we should be getting back?” Amy was getting nervous.
“Yes. Just give me a few minutes first.” Clearly we weren’t going to make it to Wreck Beach today, but I was a photographer dammit, I wasn’t going to leave without making a photo. Amy just rolled her eyes.
It was dark by the time we started back again, and cold. It was the kind of winter day where the morning dew never really lifts. The abundant potholes were still filled with water from earlier rains, which was good since it made them easier to see and avoid. Becoming increasingly paranoid about these craters, we slowed to a crawl, steering one way then the other to creep around them and at the same time stay out of the brushes. Then it happened. Thunk, scrape. Metal on gravel.
We both stared at each other for a moment, neither able to find the words. Then we did. The car exploded in a series of expletives and fists pounded on dashboard. The accelerator was tried, and tried again knowing it wasn’t going to work. Pushing didn’t help either. We were stuck. Stuck on a potholed country track in now pitch blackness. There was no mobile phone signal here either. The only thing to be done was to start back to the main road, which we did first by torchlight and then, when the battery failed, using the light from a mobile phone. We walked mostly in silence. I didn’t dare say a word for fear of having my eye socket rearranged by the end of a torch.
After what seemed like hours, we finally came to a house and amid barking dogs, knocked on the door and asked the owner, Tom, to borrow a phone to call roadside assistance.
“Shouldna taken the right fork,” he offered after hearing our story. I bit my lip to stop from mentioning we were well aware of that now. The guy was trying to help us after all. He shook his head to himself as if to say “Another one”. Tom was typical rural Australia, complete with flannel shirt and the kind of accent that blends all of the words in a sentence into one long vowel.
Roadside assistance turned out to be 3 hours away. Seeing our faces as we processed this, Tom shrugged and started to reach for his keys, “Guess we’d better shift ‘er ourselves then. I’ll just get me truck”, and with that shuffled off to his shed. After much clanging about, there was a cough and splutter of a car engine and Tom reappeared in an ancient Toyota Landcruiser with torn vinyl seats and a cracked windscreen.
“Sorry took s’long. Hadda find a tow chain. In ya get.”
Seconds later we were tearing back down the same gravel roads we’d just trodden along so carefully, the springs in the Landcruiser creaking with each bump. Tom didn’t seem at all bothered by the dips, bumps, squeaks and creaks. Picking up speed even as the road deteriorated. This, I decided, must be how the windscreen cracked.
Eventually, after much cursing and tyre spinning the car was hauled from its ditch and we followed Tom back towards the house and civilisation, only getting stuck once more on the way.
After a warming cup of milo and a quick chat we headed back to our rented cabin, grateful and looking forward to a hot shower. The car fine apart from being covered in mud.
It wasn’t until a couple of years later that I made my way back to Wreck Beach. This time in early morning in the middle of summer and making sure to take the left fork. I walked the beach for the hour or so that the tide allowed and made the above image. Driving down the beach road and back I passed Tom’s house and thought about stopping. I doubted he would remember me though, if he still lived there. For him it was probably just another Saturday night rescuing some idiot tourist who’d taken the wrong turn.
I have made a few trips to Port Campbell recently looking for some images of the rugged coastline. Actually, I have visited this location many times over the past few years without coming away with anything that I’ve really loved. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It keeps me going back and exploring new parts of the area and keeps me hungry to improve my photography.
This is of course the home of the 12 Apostles, or the 8 that are left, but many other natural attractions can be found nearby. For photographers the possibilities really are endless.
This image gallery is a combination of the recent visits. One in balmy summer conditions and the other overcast and rough (even though it was also summertime). I think they are a good representation of the many moods of Victoria’s coastline and also a good example of why it is important for landscape photographers to revisit a location many times to really get the most from it. I feel like I haven’t even scratched the surface of photo opportunities.
I hope you enjoy the gallery. Click on an image to enlarge.
After a disappointing recent trip weather-wise down the Great Ocean Road to Port Campbell, I had been waiting for an opportunity to head back there in some better light for some images of 12 Apostles and Port Campbell National Park in general. Last weekend provided the perfect opportunity.
Seeing that the conditions were going to be good later in the day, we jumped in the car for the long drive down. Its 3 and a half hours from Melbourne if you go inland.
What we didn’t count on was the mist coming off the ocean and rising almost the height of the cliffs that line the beach. It was a pretty incredible sight and made for some unusual images of Gibson’s Beach.
We stayed the night and in the morning found that the mist hadn’t lifted, which made for some interesting sunrise shots as well.
More images from that trip and the one before coming soon.
This post is pretty localised, but if you’re ever in Melbourne it’s well worth taking the time to head out of town along one of the Peninsulas that form Port Philip Bay and taking in coastal towns, beaches and lush hinterland. There are many locations on either side that are great for photographers, but one in particular I keep returning to. Hopefully if you live far, far away this will give you some ideas to explore your local area for photos.
Point Lonsdale is on the Bellarine Peninsula at the entrance to Port Phillip Bay and offers photographers a wide range of shooting opportunities. This review aims to be a short guide as to what photo opportunities you might find to help plan a visit.
Highlights: The lighthouse is Point Lonsdale’s main feature and dominates the landscape. The best views are from the western side either on top of the cliffs or on the main beach where you will have the sun behind your back at sunset. The lighthouse sits atop a rugged cliff top above craggy rocks that have been shaped by the ocean over the years. These can be used to good effect to give a remote feeling to the scene if that is your intention.
Point Lonsdale has an old pier now only used for fishing. Great shots can be had from the beach on either side, or from on the pier itself looking back towards the coastline and lighthouse. It faces east so you’ll need to be up early if you want the sun in your shot.
The main beach faces the rough Southern Ocean which swells over rockpools which provide some beautiful reflections in the right light when the tide is out. The shape of the pools change constantly with the tide, so repeat visits will almost always bring a different result.
As well as this there are many opportunities to photograph birds, flora and rugged coastline.
How to get there: From Melbourne, it’s a 1 1/2 hour drive along Princess Highway. A car park is located only a short walk from the lighthouse itself so no hiking is required. Easy access to both beaches is via stairs.
Gear: A wide angle lens is a must. So is a tripod. A good solid one is needed to combat the high winds that whip off the Southern Ocean. Many shots are likely to be at sunrise or sunset, so you may want to also pack a set of ND filters.
When to go: Summer is when you’re likely to find some amazing sunrises and sunsets, but it gets busy. If you don’t want your photos to include people then sunrise is the better option. Winter can also provide some beautiful colours and due to the rough seas can make for some quite brooding scenes, perfect for black and white photography.
Best known for its local produce and many wineries, the Morning Peninsula is also a landscape photographer’s dream. It is ideally located with the raging Southern Ocean to one side and calmer, more peaceful waters of Port Philip Bay on the other. The Peninsula is dotted with many small towns from which it is easy to make a base and drive to most locations. Cape Schank and Bushrangers Bay offer some of the rugged coastline synonymous with Victoria, which Sorrento and Portsea, home to some of Australia’s wealthiest citizens includes a number of privately owned boat jetty’s as well as colourful beach huts.
I spent a wet and windswept couple of days on the Mornington Peninsula recently chasing the few glimpses of sunshine Mother Nature was kind enough to toss up, and managed to come back with a few images I am proud of. The Peninsula is easily accessible by car so I am looking forward to going back in warmer months and taking advantage of the intense sunrises and sunsets that occur during summer.
I spent a morning at Queenscliff recently photographing the historic pier as part of a personal project and came up with this. Shot at dawn with the sun coming up over Port Phillip Bay on a cold but clear day.
Queenscliff today is a small holiday town of around 1,500 people, but is significant to the area as it was once an important cargo port for steamships trading in the bay. The pier was constructed sometime between 1884 and 1889 and is now heritage listed as it is a rare example of a jetty mounted lifeboat shed (the one on the left). Apparently I’m also related to one of the workers who built the sheds. Something I’ll have to find out more about sometime.
The pier is adjacent to a long stretch of sand that is a popular trail for early morning walkers, and even though the air was close to freezing this morning, they were still out there. There were even a few crazies in the water for an early morning dip. Albeit with wetsuits on, but still…
Point Lonsdale is a sleepy town on Victoria’s Bellarine Peninsula. The town’s main feature is the Point Lonsdale Lighthouse which dominates the coastline and serves ships coming into Port Phillip Bay and Melbourne. The main beach where the lighthouse is located is a magical place, especially at sunset when the sky goes from bright oranges to purples deep blues and the tide starts to come in and wash over the rockpools as it sets over the Southern Ocean.
I grew up not very far from here and still get back there as often as I can and each time the place is as they say “same, same but different”. The lighthouse and the beach is always there but the look of it changes. I’ve been there in the light of day, I’ve been there at sunset, and I’ve been there when it is too dark to see more than shadows but thelocation is spectacular and I never get tired of visiting it.
It’s not often that I come across a landscape photographer that makes me stop everything else and just stare open mouthed, but Bruce Percy did just that when I came across his work for the first time on his website.
Bruce is an Edinburgh based photographer focusing mainly on the wild Scottish landscape and creates beautiful moody landscapes and travel images that evoke a wanderlust like few can.
Bruce also leads photography workshops and produces educational books and podcasts that, if you have any interest in landscape photography, are well worth the time.